Naomi Campbell: I was refused entry to a French hotel ‘because of the color of my skin’

TIME 100 Gala 2019 - Arrivals

Naomi Campbell really seems to be enjoying a second (or perhaps third) wind. People are tired of Insta-models and the bland second and third-generation celebrity spawn. It’s not that Naomi Campbell ever really had a moment of reckoning for all of those people she hurt with her phone, but she did serve her time (a week of community service for the phone-throwing). And there hasn’t been a huge scandal with Naomi in several years, and she’s still glamorous and interesting and fun to watch and talk about. So Naomi is still happening and still working and still being interviewed. Apparently, she chatted with Paris Match (via The Root) recently about traveling, racism and a moment in France where some racist idiot wouldn’t let her enter a hotel.

A racist incident: She recounted an incident, saying: “I was recently in a city in the south of France, at the time of the Cannes Film Festival, where I was invited to participate in an event in a hotel whose name I will not mention. [They] did not want to let my friend and I in because of the color of my skin. The guy at the entrance pretended that the place was complete. He did not want to let my friend and I in because of the color of my skin … But he let other people pass. I have always wanted people to be treated fairly. [I] do not believe that it goes without saying. The challenge is permanent,/It is [because of] these kinds of shocking moments that I will continue to express myself and make myself heard.”

She considered the late Nelson Mandela her mentor: “Mandela opened my eyes, my heart, and showed me the way. With him, I learned a lot.”

Whether her race is an asset as a model: “Yes and no. I have always refused the idea that it hinders me. There were obstacles, but in the business, the girls [her fellow supermodels] helped me a lot.”

What she wanted to do when she first started working: “I had only one idea in my mind: to discover America. I had seen so many movies! For a first trip, we went back from New Orleans to Baton Rouge, then Alabama, Mississippi, and Pensacola, Fla. For a young black girl, discovering the southern United States was a very intense experience.”

Her new dream: “My dream is to go to all African countries. I still have a lot to do. I want to change the perception of this continent, and encourage the people of our world to invest in infrastructure. For this mission, I will never be tired.”

[From Paris Match via The Root and People]

She said the racist hotel incident happened “recently,” I wonder if that means… during or adjacent to this year’s Cannes Film Festival? I can’t believe people still do that sh-t. But in some ways, I can totally believe it because look where we are and look at Donald Trump and Boris Johnson and the rise of white supremacists “reclaiming” their power and all of that. It’s not that people have suddenly become more racist, it’s that they’ve suddenly stopped hiding their racism, because they’re proud of it. You know that guy went home and slept well because he was proud of denying Naomi Campbell entrance to an event. It made him feel important. It embiggened him. Ugh.

British Fashion Council Photocall held at the Ritz Hotel

Photos courtesy of WENN.

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77 Responses to “Naomi Campbell: I was refused entry to a French hotel ‘because of the color of my skin’”

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  1. marjorie says:

    Why not name the hotel? This is disgraceful.

  2. horseandhound says:

    I find that really hard to believe. when you’re naomi campbell there is no way somebody doesn’t let you in. it’s all about the name, the status and the money. I doubt they care about the race of the person who’s there. they just want their money.

    • Mignionette says:

      I don’t. People forget that not everyone is glued 24-7 to social media and Naomi is no longer a full time working model. I can see that a young doorman or someone from the countryside in France may not know who she is.
      Some parts of France are also notoriously racist.

      • yabbering says:

        Lollll at notoriously racist France.

      • Valiantly Varnished says:

        @yabbering What are you lolling about?? France has a VERY long history of racism. What’s funny about that??

      • Désirée says:

        Having worked in the luxury hospitality field, I also have a hard time thinking a 4 or 5 stars hotel in Cannes (I don’t think Naomi would try to go to a cheaper hotel) would hire an experienced young “countryside” doorman who doesn’t know or can’t recognize celebrities or would stop every black or non-white people from getting in, given the amount of extremely wealthy non-white visitors in the French Riviera, particularly in summer. But of course everything is possible.

    • Jadedone says:

      Maybe the door guy didnt know she was Naomi Campbell and assumed bc she was black she didnt gave money??

    • BeanieBean says:

      It could have been somebody young, some young fellow, who knows nothing about supermodels from the 80s/90s.

    • jennifer says:

      Yea, makes me wonder if she was acting like an a-hole and chose not to mention that?

      • Valiantly Varnished says:

        So…was Oprah acting like an *sshole too when she was denied entry into a designer store in France?? I swear, people will bend themselves into pretzels to overlook everyday racism.

      • Christina says:

        Jennifer, I’ve watched plenty of rich white folks show their asses and get them kissed at the same time. Naomi earned her place of privilege. She acts like the other wealthy women she is around, and she doesn’t apologize for it, and that makes me like her more. It reminds me of when everyone was criticizing the Smith kids. Hey, Rod Stewart’s kids aren’t rocket scientists, either! Jaden and Willow get to be free spirits in fancy clothes and go to parties just like all of the other wealthy kids, except that they are Black, and we aren’t used to seeing Black ultra wealthy, internationally known, well-Traveled, Chanel-wearing Black teenagers.

        Acting ugly is wrong, but the moneyed folk aren’t like us, and they act mean to people because they are insulated by money. Naomi is no worse than tons of women who get all worked up because their White privilege makes them appalled that anyone would question their motives for being awful to someone. And too many White women don’t need to be super wealthy to act out like that.

      • whatWHAT? says:

        “It is well documented that Naomi acts like an a-hole in public”

        and when was the last time there was a story to that effect? I’ve heard nothing about her temper/bad behavior in years.

        to add, she said this was “at an event” during the Cannes film festival. you think there weren’t paparazzi and press EVERYWHERE? if she had acted a fool, there would have been a story about it. it would have been “well documented”, as you noted.

      • Incense Burner says:

        Keep wondering, I guess.

      • Nova says:

        The gymnastics some people will do to discount other people’s racist experiences *pukes*

      • CanCanKicks says:

        Valiently, I have to wonder if you, erm, mis-remembered Oprah’s situation, or if you’re doing this on purpose.

        Oprah was *never* denied entry into a Hermes shop.

        Oprah demanded to be let in to shop after hours. In France, they don’t really give an F if you’re famous – when the shop is closed, it’s closed, and people go home.

        She wasn’t discriminated against. She just thinks being treated like anyone else would is discrimination.

      • stinky says:

        CanCanKicks is 100% correct. As for the ‘pretzel’-ing, this site never disappoints. Let the race-war on whitey begin – Celebitchy’s here for it. Always.

      • kerwood says:

        @jennifer. Have you ever worked with Naomi Campbell? I have and she was nothing but gracious and professional. She is condemned for something that happened 15 years ago and, as someone in Toronto familiar with the case, we didn’t get the full story. A lot of people were willing to believe the worst about Naomi without even listening to her side of the story. WHITE celebrities have gotten away with a LOT worse. Shit, I’ve heard stories about Cindy Crawford and Linda Evangelista that should ‘cancel’ them for life.

      • jennifer says:

        y’all need to stop twisting the facts, campbell was last in court FOUR years ago, when she was found guilty for assault. she has been charged a total of four times for assault, and has been accused over ten times. So it is completely sane and rational to question her behavior.

      • SuperNova says:

        Wow, talk about purposely missing the point abd victim shaming. Look at you trying to make up excuses, she must be to blame. Black people are discriminated against all the time. Money won’t isolate us. Your comment was gross as are many others who have responded with maybe they thought she was poor. Newsflash, they thought she was poor and didn’t belong because she is black.

        Black women never get to be heard do they?

    • Valiantly Varnished says:

      You…sound like someone who has no firsthand knowledge of how discrimination works. But go off.

    • LouBear says:

      Oprah Winfrey wasn’t allowed into Hermes in Paris only a few years ago and she was absolutely racially profiled. This security person obviously didn’t recognise Naomi, all they saw was a black woman

    • MrsBanjo says:

      LOL at the thinking that famous people can’t experience racism.

      • Valiantly Varnished says:

        I know right?!

      • Christina says:

        Exactly, Banjo, VV and Tifany. It happens. Naomi May throw phones, but I’ve never known her to be discussed as a liar.

      • horseandhound says:

        okay… but I still think their status is more powerful than anything else.
        if I, who am white, and naomi both entered a fancy boutique…who do you think would get served first? even if people didn’t recognize her as a celebrity, she’d still get priority since she’d be wearing something luxurious and they’d see she has money and I don’t. I am convinced people treat you better when you look rich. I am not saying there are no racist people, but I don’t think there are so many racist people like it’s now popular to think. I have more faith in people than that.

      • Kitten says:

        @horseandhound- But you’re a white person.
        You’re not the barometer for racism–people of color are.

        If people of color say they experienced racism, as white women it is our JOB to listen and validate, not dismiss. I believe Naomi just like I believe every single black woman in this thread telling us that this is typical shit they experience.
        It’s really not hard to believe, given all the bullshit we see black people dealing with on the regular.

      • yo says:

        THANK YOU KITTEN!

      • Flffgrrrrlr says:

        I read some meme earlier that encapsulated how some white people are being here: “privilege is thinking something doesn’t exist because you personally have never experienced it”.

    • Tiffany :) says:

      If a WOC says they were a victim of racism, I am going to listen to them. You have no reason to doubt her experience.

    • whatWHAT? says:

      when you’re a racist, race (pardon the term) trumps fame.

      there are a LOT of famous black people who have been the victims of racism. as noted, The Mighty O herself was refused entry to a fancy boutique in France.

      • Call_me_al says:

        This story of Naomi ‘s is terrible. It sounds truly devastating and humiliating. She was invited to be there to work. I hope she isn’t naming names because she sued and it’s an open investigation.
        I do remember the Oprah Hermes deal, the story that was out at the time was that the shop was already closed and wouldn’t reopen for Oprah. My experience in France is that those shop clerks don’t stay late for anyone, but it could totally have been racially -tinged.

    • MellyMel says:

      Some of y’all thinking a POC can’t be discriminated against because they are rich &/or famous is beyond frustrating! Racists don’t care how much money you have or how many ppl know your name or how many magazines you’ve been on…all they see is black & brown and that’s enough for them.

    • Annaloo. says:

      Wasn’t it also Oprah who had a hard time in France? Something about a shop lady not showing her a bag bc she assumed O could afford it…. does anyone else remember this story?

      • CanCanKicks says:

        Oprah demanded a shop let her in after hours, they didn’t for her because they wouldn’t for anyone, rich or not, famous or not, white or not, and Oprah decided being treated the same as anyone else was horrific discrimination.

      • stinky says:

        … that was Switzerland. O was in town celebrating w/ Tina Turner. She wanted to see a bag that was out of reach and outta site expensive and the shop keeper tried to steer her towards another bag. O persisted and clarified that was indeed the bag she wanted to see, and i think the shop-girl then refused. Which would FLAME ME, know this! Team Oprah on that one … Hermes? not so much.

    • Adrianna says:

      I believe it. Look what happened to Oprah when she tried to buy a purse in Europe. They treated her like garbage. I hope Naomi gets in touch with management at that hotel.

    • Ader says:

      Denying racism is a potent form of racism. Period. And if you’re a white person who believes they understand racism better than the people who deal with it, ask yourself where that arrogance is rooted.

      A quote from Dr. Robin DiAngelo, one of the foremost scholars on race studies:

      “I am white. I have spent years studying what it means to be white in a society that proclaims race meaningless, yet is deeply divided by race. This is what I have learned: Any white person living in the United States will develop opinions about race simply by swimming in the water of our culture. But mainstream sources–schools, textbooks, media–don’t provide us with the multiple perspectives we need. Yes, we will develop strong emotionally laden opinions, but they will not be informed opinions. Our socialization renders us racially illiterate. When you add a lack of humility to that illiteracy (because we don’t know what we don’t know), you get the break-down we so often see when trying to engage white people in meaningful conversations about race.”

    • Adrien says:

      Huh! Remember Oprah and the Hermes store incident in Rome? Oprah… OPRAH. One of the world’s most famous persons that even spellchecker recognises her name and automatically suggest Winfrey as next word.

    • Sara says:

      Honestly if it was a hotel in the South of France they probably didn’t recognize her or didn’t care. I mean OPERA didn’t get recognized in Switzerland and they refused her service in a boutique. Europeans are a lot more insular than Americans. She might be super famous in the some parts of the world but I can totally see this happening.

  3. ariel says:

    Her reputation, probably well deserved, is so bratty.
    Here, she sounds like a grown up. A reasonable, intelligent, worldly middle aged woman.
    Good for her.

    And, we need to make racists ashamed again.
    They are way too proud of their evil ideals.

  4. crogirl says:

    To me she’s still 1000% better than all new young models. Noone can look better than her in that Valentino show

  5. Rhys says:

    It must be infuriating to be that accomplished and know that no matter what, some low life somewhere behind the clerk desk will treat you this way.

    As a woman, who speaks several languages and is accomplished in my field, but is also blond and attractive, and therefore sometimes gets patronized by men and treated as a sweet dumb girl, I can relate.

    • WTW says:

      @Rhys, I understand this comment was supposed to be expressing empathy, but the racism that black people deal with is in no way comparable to the way society treats so-called “dumb blondes.” For one, black and brown people constantly have our intelligence questioned no matter our educational background, experience or accomplishments in life, and we often can’t convince people that we’re not dumb since the intellectual inferiority of blacks is so ingrained in society. And this stereotype has very real consequences, including black and brown kids being put in special ed at higher rates and gifted classes at lower rates than white and Asian kids. Blonde white girls aren’t being wrongfully put in special ed, suspended from class, or steered away from college-prep classes because of stereotypes about their intelligence. The stereotype is also the reason black and brown kids may attend schools without many or any AP classes or calculus. It’s the reason a black job candidate with a college degree is still less likely to get a job than a white candidate with just a high school diploma. It’s the reason Trump feels so comfortable insulting black people like Don Lemon and Maxine Waters by insulting their intelligence. Yes, white women deal with sexism, but WOC deal with it too and male and female POC all face persistent bias about our intellect, or perceived lack thereof.

  6. Canber says:

    I loathe her, but I feel sorry for her having to experience that revolting episode.

    • stinky says:

      How hard is it to ask for the manager?? (theres already skits on SNL about entitled nutty white women who do this)

  7. OuiOkay says:

    «  I want to change the perception of this continent, and encourage the people of our world to invest in infrastructure. For this mission, I will never be tired.”

    Amazing ! I hope more wealthy people will join her in this. As it is, china is taking advantage of the lack of investment by offering loans which are often defaulting and this China is owning more and more of Africa

    • kerwood says:

      What China is doing in Africa is disgusting and they get away with it because…IT’S AFRICA. China is going to get the last laugh when the world figures out that China owns all of Africa’s natural resources.

  8. gingersnaps says:

    Racist people are still out there and probably proud to be out and out racists because of the current climate in politics. I was in Wales last weekend for a short holiday with my family and we decided to chill in the beach that was just a few minutes from the farm where we were staying so my son could enjoy a relaxing afternoon. I sat on a bench whilst my partner and our son was off exploring so I could catch up on the hungarian grand prix when I suddenly felt someone glaring at me, I shrugged it off and got up & started walking towards where my family was. I then saw him go to the bench and clean & disinfect it as if I had polluted it. On our way back, he kept glaring at me, mumbling about something & I refused to engage with him as I didn’t want to set a bad example for my son. I’m of south east asian descent and lately I’ve been getting more crap from racists here and it’s very exhausting.

    • Joanna says:

      Oh, I’m sorry that happened to you. people who think and act like that are garbage . Probably best you didn’t react to him.

  9. Originaluna says:

    Funny to see people bending over backwards to attribute this inexcusable behavior to Naomi’s personality or phone throwing incidents from 15 years ago.
    If you are not BLACK just don’t say anything.
    Besides, for those of you saying it was impossible not to guess she’s wealthy for her expensive clothes I got news for you. With all the influencers and internet models nowadays it is almost impossible to distinguish anybody from what they are wearing.
    I love what she said about my continent and will be ready to welcome her when she decides to come down to my country.

  10. Joanna says:

    How would us white people know what racism is?! We rarely experience it so why are we assuming we know what it is? I’m married to a black man and I’ve seen so much fucked up shit while I’ve been w him. From people watching us wherever we go (I’ve literally watched people looking him up and down. So absorbed in it that they don’t notice that I’m watching them), to my neighbor telling my husband he has a good setup. A guy at his job told him it was a whites only bathroom. My husband tried to laugh it off, said, well, I’m part white, the guy said not white enough. I’ve never had any comparable experiences w any of the white guys I’ve dated. Just us white people being able to just live life normally without being bothered is an example of our white privilege. My husband and I are in 2 different cities at the moment so I’ve been around all white people for the most part and going out w my white family. I went to visit my husband. He gave me a kiss at my car and this guy was staring at us, I looked at him and he walked on and turned back and looked again. And all my husband did was give me a peck on the lips. There is no flying under the radar or going incognito when I’m with my husband. He’s big and black. Mixed but due to the one drop rule called black. I was very ignorant about racism before I met my husband. Had no idea how bad it was, I always lived in mostly white areas. It was a real wakeup call, that’s for sure. Some of y’all white people on here need a wakeup call. Stfu, you don’t know what racism is. When I’m not with my husband I go under the radar. When I’m With him, that’s never an option. But I wouldn’t trade him for anything!!

    • Ader says:

      Keep speaking up, Joanna! Because White people don’t listen to us Black folks.

      Like you, my spouse is a different race. I’m Black-biracial and my husband is White. We also live in different cities at the moment because of work. Stay Strong. I feel ya. Hard on multiple levels.

  11. Izzy says:

    Denying a black woman’s experience with racism and attributing it to “her reputation” or “her behavior” is… peak white privilege.

  12. Alexandria says:

    Why is this so hard to believe? France is still trying to tackle racism in football, that’s racism at grassroots level. And the fact that she’s rich and famous may make that racist person feel even better and mighty because he denied a black celebrity. He is making himself above a celebrity.

  13. Mrs. Smith says:

    I’m white and, growing up the in South, I was so sheltered (and ignorant, let’s face it) that I had no idea what white privilege meant. Not until I became an adult and had a boss who is an African American woman did I catch of glimpse of it. The day she asked me to meet the taxi on the corner for her so he wouldn’t drive away was pretty mind-blowing. I almost cried.

  14. Teri says:

    Could it be possible they booked ahead of time and that’s why they got in? Could it also be possible they really were full?

  15. Lola says:

    Michelle Obama encountered racism associated in Spain back when she was First Lady. I don’t want to elaborate, but a few examples are a Univision host was fired for racist comments regarding her, a few racist cartoons in newspapers, etc. Also, the videos may have been removed, but several years ago there were plenty of videos of racist soccer fans in Spain, including videos of soccer fans throwing bananas from the stands at a goalie with dark skin. It was sad and bizarre because the fans were laughing as if it was all good fun.

  16. kerwood says:

    France racist? WHAT A SHOCK!!!

    Naomi Campbell experienced what Black men and women experience in France EVERY SINGLE DAY. I’ve spent time in France and I can attest that it’s very difficult to be Black there. One of the things that I found interesting was that the French were usually very cold to me until I opened my mouth and it was clear I wasn’t French. Very often the attitude changed. Nobody invited me home for tea but it seemed that being a foreign Black woman was better than being a FRENCH Black woman. On numerous occasions I saw FRENCH Black men and women openly treated like dirt.

    And I’d like to be able to laugh at all the people who want to believe that Naomi Campbell DESERVED to be racially profiled because of something that she did 15 years ago, but I’m too filled with disgust at anyone who would excuse racism. But thanks for outing yourselves. It’s always good to know who the REAL racists are.

    • Anna says:

      I’ve heard that there’s less racism than here in Italy :( but that’s awful to hear

      • WTW says:

        Italy has also had incidents where bananas were thrown at athletes. There’s also well-documented xenophobia and Neo-Nazism there. When I was in Italy, I was exoticized and harassed by Italian men who kept calling me beautiful, but it was clear there was a racial element to it. I’ve experienced similar behavior in Mexico. Non-black women I was with were not catcalled, followed, or harassed in the extreme way I was. Basically, there was an unsettling sexual undertone to all of their behavior towards me, who they regarded as a “beautiful black woman.” Ironically, one man even referred to me as “Naomi Campbell” at one point. It was clear some of these men had a sexual fantasy about being with a black woman.

        In small towns in France, like Dieppe and Calais, I got dirty looks from some people. One woman sneered at me so openly that my non-black friend asked why people kept staring at me. The same friend helped to fend men away from me in Italy. So, you could say French and Italian racism looked different, but I was alienated and uncomfortable in both countries.

      • Joanna says:

        @wtw, I’m sorry that happened to you. I’m white and my husband is mixed. I’d like to do some international travel with him. Are there any places you would say to avoid? Or places that you feel were less racist? My husband is also very muscular so people are threatened by that as well. If God forbid, something happened, I guess I would go to the American embassy? But I would like to know what places are more POC friendly in your opinion. If you don’t mind 🙂

      • WTW says:

        @Joanna. This is one of those situations where race and gender make a difference. I was sexualized as a black woman in Italy, so that doesn’t really translate to what a black man might experience. In Italy, I was in cities like Venice, Rome, and Milan. But even when I encountered Italian men in other countries, they still hit on me. Outside of the sexual harassment, I did not have a bad experience. In Paris, I didn’t have bad experiences due to my race, but in the small towns I did, so I guess avoid small French towns?

  17. Gorgonia says:

    I totally believe her. I can’t say if he didn’t know she was a famous fashion model, but sometimes, if you are a black celebrity, it’s even worse. Racist people can’t stand when black people is successful, wealthy and with status.

    • WTW says:

      You don’t have to be famous to get this treatment. Just being a middle-class, well-dressed, educated, attractive black person is enough to upset racists who have told themselves that no such black people exist. Racists don’t want to meet anyone who makes them feel inferior.

  18. Fern says:

    When people like Oprah and Naomi Campbell publicly claim that they were discriminated against due to the color of their skin, I think there’s more to the story. They’re so wealthy and famous that race is irrelevant unless they’re trying to use their celebrity and influence to shine a spotlight on racism in general. Sure, it happens but not usually to those who have wealth, power and status. They are in another class far above all the races and people who have less authority and wealth.

  19. Caty Page says:

    Thank goodness you’re here with your investigative journalism powers, Fern! I mean, it’s not like we can trust Black women to tell their own stories. We need your filter! Which I’m guessing is very white. Please explain to us further about the magical time and place where race becomes “irrelevant.”

  20. MariaS says:

    Wow, the white supremacists really showed up for this thread. Absolutely disgusting and pathetic.